I am honestly not sure where to begin discussing this film. I liked it but I was also frustrated by it. Mixing science fiction with drama and romance, this week’s film is this year’s blockbuster John Carter of 2012. Andrew Stanton directed this one – I have tons of respect for this man. He was a writer for all three Toy Story films, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and A Bug’s Life. He is also currently working on Monsters University, the sequel to Monsters Inc., which is scheduled to be released sometime next year. Therefore, Stanton is kind of a genius. I just think perhaps he went a bit off kilter with this one.
There are some great names in the cast…Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, and Bryan Cranston. My second favorite character in this was actually the villain, Matai Shang, played by Mark Strong. I thought his performance was very well-done. Strong’s filmography is incredible. He is a British actor who has starred in mostly UK based films/television shows, but actually has another Disney connection. He voiced Pod in the UK version of The Secret World of Arrietty! How cool is that?! And I’m not going to lie. I have had a crush on Dominic West for years…almost as long as I have liked Jack Davenport. For those who do not know him by name, he stars in the television show The Wire, and has also appeared in underrated films such as The Forgotten and Mona Lisa Smile.
So here’s the thing. I have complete respect for the fact that they wanted to give Taylor Kitsch a chance. I just do not think he was ready for this yet. Although he starred in Friday Night Lights, going from John Tucker (in John Tucker Must Die) from 2006 to John Carter in 2012 must have been a big step. I have to give him credit though – because of the extremely fit shape he was in for this film, he lost 30 pounds due to exercise and claimed to have suffered liver problems throughout the filming. That is dedication right there! Kitsch is not a horrible actor but portrayed John Carter as somewhat of an empty character. Also, before he was transported to Mars, is it just me or was his voice strikingly similar to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman in The Dark Knight? The deep, horror-esque gravel tone. Yikes.
The biggest problem I had with this film was that it seemed to be a clash of Avatar meets Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It was difficult to comprehend the fact that this film took place on Mars and not on Pandora. Maybe if the inhabitants were not gangly and 12 feet tall with an odd color of skin, I would have thought a bit differently. Don’t get me wrong, the storyline is fantastic. I just think that the articulate details could have been tweaked a bit to give this more of a creative edge. The whole idea of a man from 1868 who is transported to Mars is an extremely cool theory. Normally, a happy ending is needed in a film such as this one, and thankfully, Disney delivers with this promise.
Thanks to IMDb, they shared some facts including a couple of which I would like to share. On Dejah’s right arm appears a red tattoo which is said to resemble a Mickey Mouse head. And this kind of blew my mind…the music from the first trailer for the film used two instrumental arrangements of “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin! Also, John Carter was the third live-action Disney film to warrant a PG-13 rating. The first was Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and the second was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
My absolute favorite scene was right after Carter arrived on Mars. He did not understand why he could not walk properly on the planet, since he had no clue of where he was. He attempted every way possible to stay on the ground and walk, but alas, none of the ways he tried worked. There were a couple of light hearted moments as well, which added endearing qualities to the film. For instance, throughout the duration of the film, Tars Tarkas repeatedly called John by the name “Virginia”, since this was where he was from so he mistakenly thought Virginia was his name. The other scene I am thinking of occurs when John holds out his hand for Dejah to shake, but she is unaware of this concept so she shakes his thumb instead.
My favorite character in the film is Woola, the dog-like creature who accompanied Carter on his missions. He was absolutely lovable and to me, was the saving grace of the entire film. When he was on screen, my heart completely melted. And as I mentioned previously, the villain Matai Shang is my second favorite character.
I would totally sit down to watch this again, but not for a while. There are many other films I would like to see first. There is nothing extremely wrong or degrading about this film. Stanton did what he could with what he had, although perhaps he could have done a bit more. However, it was not terrible. I do not regret seeing it and if you are a fan of modern day science fiction films, it is worth a watch.
My Rating: 3/5 stars.
You are ugly, but you are beautiful. And you fight like a Thark!